On the Runbythrillerauthor©
“Your first mistake was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from me. Your second mistake was thinking you could get away with it.” As I stood trembling before his desk, Mr. Atwater regarded me as if I were a bug on the windshield of his Lexus. “Do you have anything to say for yourself before I call the police?”
Without thinking, I turned and bolted out of his office, past rows of startled secretaries and accountants, straight down the hall and through the door to the fire stairs. I took them three at a time, forty-two stories in all, and when I emerged through an emergency exit into the narrow alley behind our building, I was heaving with exertion. I forced myself to walk at a normal pace as I melted into the crowd of pedestrians on LaSalle Street, and I was able to flag down a cab as the sirens of approaching police cars pierced the autumn air.
Returning to my apartment was out of the question. “Midway Airport,” I told the driver, not really knowing where I intended to go. Just far away, fast. Thank God I’d stashed the embezzled money in a bank account opened the week before with an assumed name and phony identification. As a woman, of all things.
It was just dumb luck that my girlfriend had persuaded me to dress up in her clothes for Halloween. She really got into it, and by the time she dragged me to a party thrown by some of her friends, I was actually passable. I kept her clothes until the next day, and that morning, I opened a bank account with a bogus Arizona driver’s license that I scored over the Internet. As Victoria Ross, I worth over half a million dollars, if I could stay ahead of the law long enough to get my hands on it.
Arizona…why not? I could start a new life there, far away from the Chicago winter. All I had to do was present myself at a local bank, transfer the loot, and keep a low profile. As my cab pulled up to the curb at Midway, I checked my wallet to make sure Victoria Ross’s Arizona license and ATM card were safely tucked in an inside pocket. I paid the cabby and sprinted to the Southwest Airlines ticket counter.
* * *
MANHUNT HEATS UP FOR EMBEZZLER
CHICAGO: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has intensified its search for Derek Buxton, the Chicago accountant who allegedly absconded from Eon Company with almost $600,000 last week. Buxton, 22, was last seen fleeing the office of Eon Chief Executive Officer Ronald Atwater after his elaborate scheme to pilfer funds from the mammoth insurance company’s overnight deposit accounts was uncovered. He is described as 5’8” tall, with blue eyes, long brown hair and a slim build. A reward of $50,000 has been posted by Eon in return for information leading to his arrest.
I returned the day-old issue of the Chicago Tribune to its place in the newspaper rack at Border’s and tugged my Diamondbacks baseball cap lower over my face. The photograph which accompanied the article didn’t do me justice, but it was close enough to convince me that the time had come to emerge from my cocoon as Victoria Ross. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before a sharp-eyed policeman or newshound picked me out of a crowd.
For the past week, I laid low at a cheap motel on the outskirts of Phoenix, paying in advance in cash and eating as little as possible while I plotted out my next moves. My weight was down almost 10 pounds, and my fingernails had grown out nicely, both necessary precursors to my transition. The previous afternoon was spent scouting out strip malls for the essentials I would need, riding buses only when absolutely necessary. The Arizona sun was a perfect excuse for the dark sunglasses and cap that concealed my features as I walked into my first objective, a large Walgreen’s drug store.
My total cash reserves were down to $200, so there was no margin for error. When my girlfriend made my over for Halloween, she had dressed me in a bulky sweater, a long skirt and dark opaque tights, which masked my body hair and boyish physique. There was no way I would be getting away with that this time. In a few hours, I would be nose to nose with a bank officer, opening an account in the name of Victoria Ross. I would have to look, and act, like a normal American girl. The alternative was ten to twenty years of being raped by enormous convicts in a federal prison.
With that terrifying thought, I moved swiftly through the aisles. I had made a mental checklist during my bus ride, and I tried to remember everything as I started filling my basket. Double-edged razor and extra blades. Emery boards, nail polish remover and quick-dry nail polish. A hair brush and a supply of bobby pins and scrunchies. Shampoo, conditioner, and a good pair of scissors. Moisturizer. Foundation. Compact. What shade should I get? The choices were bewildering. I selected and rejected dozens of products before I threw some in my basket and continued to my next objective.
The basket filled quickly. Sponges and brushes. Blusher. Eye shadow. Eye liner. Eyebrow pencil. Scented bubble bath. Women’s deodorant. An inexpensive cologne. Lipstick and a few pairs of nylons. I was sure I had forgotten something, but I had already spent a small fortune, and there was an opening at one of the checkout counters. I dumped my haul in front of a startled checkout clerk and watched in utter humiliation through my dark sunglasses as she contorted her face while she rang up my purchases. I must have turned bright red as I peeled $100 out of my wallet and picked up my collection of shopping bags. “Have fun!” she said as I retreated from the store.
I caught a bus back to my motel and stuffed my acquisitions into one of the cheap dresser drawers. I had $100 left to put together a complete woman’s wardrobe. I could chance a trip to an ATM machine, but I was determined to minimize my risk of exposure until my disguise was in place and I was ready to move the loot. So I headed back out to a nearby Marshall’s discount department store and tried to look casual as I wandered through the racks of women’s clothing, not knowing what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised. A designer dress for $29. Panties, bra and a half slip for another $20. Clasp earrings and a fake gold necklace for $10. I even bought a matching scarf to accessorize my dress for $3. A black leather purse for $25. This time I had to stand in line at the checkout counter, and I studiously ignored the odd looks from the other customers and the clerk at the register as I paid for my purchases and headed back outside.
It was almost noon, and the bright Arizona sun reminded me that I would need a pair of women’s sunglasses as I walked through the strip mall to my final destination that morning: a Payless shoe store, where I found a pair of extra wide black skimmer flats for $10. For the last time, I endured the smirks from a cashier, then I was back outside and on my way to my motel room.
The housekeepers had come and gone, and I carefully hung up my new dress and piled the rest of my purchases on the bed. Methodically, I began to cut off all of the price tags and remove the cosmetics from their sealed packages. I was reasonably certain about the sizes, having learned enough from my Halloween experience to know that I was a perfect size 16, and that my feet could squeeze into a woman’s size 9 if I had tights or stockings on. The lingerie and pantyhose had been educated guesses, but they were less critical.
More worrying was how to put on all of the makeup. My girlfriend had made me over while I watched, and I had been around girls long enough to have a rough idea of their techniques, but actually doing it to myself was going to take some trial and error. First things first, though. I picked up the bubble bath, razor and blades and brought them into the small, Spartan bathroom. While the tub slowly filled up, I lowered myself into it and tried to relax as I soaked myself in the swirling hot suds.
Up until this point, my plan to access the money had all seemed like a fantastic game. Now, as I prepared myself for what lay ahead, the reality of the situation took hold. If I was to avoid spending the best years of my life in prison, I would have to remake myself completely, from the inside out. The next time I walked outside, I would have to appear, and act, like a completely different person. The next time I used my voice, I would have to talk, and sound, like someone else. The prospect, as I closed my eyes and let the hot water close over my head, was strangely liberating.
The truth was, my life had been a series of disappointments, a nonstop succession of rejections and missed opportunities. An only child, my parents had divorced when I was young, and I had never been close to either of them. A loner as a boy, I made no lasting friendships, and my associates at work had either ignored me or been downright offensive. My successes with women were sadly limited, and even the girlfriend who made me over on Halloween had spent most of the evening flirting with another guy, making me feel ridiculous as I sat by myself in her clothing.
All that was about to change, whether I liked it or not. Eighteen hundred miles away in Chicago, the FBI was undoubtedly hard at work. They would have gotten nowhere trying to glean information about my whereabouts from my co-workers or neighbors, but by now they must have inventoried the meager possessions in my studio apartment, and gotten their hands on my laptop computer.
Without my password, my computer would normally have been impregnable, but it was only a matter of time before their specialists would have access to my files. And in particular, to the record of my acquisition of an Arizona driver’s license in the name of Victoria Ross. When they put that together with the last use of my credit card, to purchase a ticket to Phoenix on Southwest Airlines, the trail would get very hot indeed.
I loaded a blade into the heavy metal razor and took the plunge. I had never used an old-fashioned razor like this before, but my body was covered with thick, course hair, and I knew that my regular disposable razors would be no match for it. After the first painful nicks, I slowed to a deliberate pace, changing blades occasionally as I methodically worked my way up my calves. It was hard work, and by the time I was done shaving my legs, the water was full of clumps of hair, tinged a light pink from several painful cuts. I had better luck on my chest and arms, and as I worked my way up to my underarms, I was able to maneuver the razor around the awkward curves without further injury.
At last I was finished, completely exhausted. Standing up to get out of the tub, I was surprised at how cool the air felt against my freshly denuded skin. While the water struggled to go down the drain, clogged by now with a ball of hair the size of a grapefruit, I returned to the bedroom and retrieved the shampoo and conditioner. I took a long, cool shower, rinsing the last of the hair off my body while I lathered and conditioned my shoulder-length hair. When I was finished, I wrapped a threadbare towel around my head in a turban, and examined myself in the full-length mirror on the bathroom door.
It was amazing. With my body hair gone, all I had to do was tuck my penis between my legs, and I almost looked like a naked girl. A little makeup and padding, and I might just be able to pull this off. I gave my face a close shave, and lined up the cosmetics on the vanity.
It took me over an hour to figure out how to put on my makeup. Halfway through, I realized that I had forgotten to purchase makeup remover, which complicated things a bit. More important, it drove home the reality that I was committed to this. My next shopping excursion would be as a woman. I had reached the point of no return.
Fortunately, I had remembered to buy nail polish remover, which was a good thing. It seemed to take forever before I had a decent coat on my newly shaped nails. When they were finally presentable, I pulled the turban off my head and blow-dried my hair with the antiquated motel hair dryer. I brushed it until all of the tangles were gone, and then fussed with it for a long time before I had it the way I wanted it, pulled up high in the back with a scrunchie which matched my new blue dress.
All the while, as I watched my slow transformation, I was struck by how feminine I was starting to become. My polished fingers seemed more petite as they flitted about their tasks, framing my face with bangs and spit curls. Although I had never been particularly handsome as a man, when I surveyed the finished product in the mirror, there was no denying that I was more attractive as a girl. But appearances were not enough. Could I actually play the part?
A glance at the clock on the nightstand brought me back to reality. It was almost three o’clock! How long did the banks stay open? I surveyed the lingerie on the bedspread and took a deep breath. “Okay, Victoria,” I said to myself, in as feminine a voice as I could muster. “Time to get dressed.”
I picked up my panties and stepped into them, pulling them up my now smooth legs. When I went to push my penis back between my legs, I noticed to my surprise that it was starting to stiffen, and it jumped to attention when I touched it. What the hell was going on? Up until that moment, this had all been work, hard work, as I struggled to cope with the everyday chores of being a woman. Without realizing it, I was careening towards a turning point in my life.
I pulled my panties up to my waist and let them hold my penis tight against my flat stomach. Momentarily distracted by the challenge of attaching my bra, I struggled desperately to fasten it behind my back, finally twisting it around and hooking the snaps in front. After I turned it back around and tugged the straps over my arms, I filled the cups with wads of tissue. I tore open a package of pantyhose, and started back towards the bathroom to make sure I hadn’t overdone the padding in my bra.
What I saw in the mirror took my breath away. A beautiful girl, dressed only in her bra and panties, was staring at me, a pair of nylons in her dainty hands. Delicate lashes fluttered over her smoky blue eyes, while her mouth formed a cupid’s bow which shot an arrow into my groin. My world was about to change forever.
I moved a chair in front of the mirror, and with trembling fingers, I started to pull my stockings up my smooth legs. I had to reach down to straighten the seams against my toes before I began to ease them on, slowly, one leg at a time, being careful not to twist or tear the delicate nylon. The sensation of the silky fabric against my skin was electrifying. After I finally maneuvered them up to my waist, and did a quick knee-bend to draw them tight, I sat back down and stared at the girl in the mirror. My pulse was racing as she leaned forward and caressed her sleek legs with her elegant fingers.
The spell was broken by my aching penis, held captive under control top pantyhose and panties. In a daze, I got up and stepped into my half slip, feeling the delicious fabric slide up against my stockings. The lacy hem rested just above the tops of my knees, making my legs look utterly feminine as they shimmered beneath it. My fingers were shaking again when I took my dress off its hanger and dropped it over my head. It was light blue, with little white checks, and it fell to my knees as I smoothed it into place. For some reason, the shoulder pads made my physique look more girlish, while the gathered waist accentuated my artificial bust line. When I reached behind my back to pull up the zipper, my dress rose up over my knees, revealing a froth of lacy slip. At the sight of this, I became intensely aroused, and my penis suddenly exploded.
Stunned, I fell back onto the bed, lost in the throes of the most exquisite orgasm of my life. Finally it subsided, and my pleasure was quickly replaced by a profound sense of shame. What was happening to me? This was supposed to be a temporary disguise, not an alternative lifestyle. What was I…some kind of pervert? My God, could I be gay?
“Get a grip on yourself,” I heard myself saying. Then, in the feminine voice I had practiced earlier, “Come on, let’s get going, girl.” I staggered into the bathroom, lifted up my dress and slip, and pulled down my panties and hose, which were smeared with gobs of semen. I took a damp washcloth and cleaned myself off, dabbing my lingerie and stockings as I did so. Eventually, I pulled myself back together, and when I returned to the bedroom, I was all business. I stepped into my flats, finding them tight but wearable, and returned to the bathroom to fasten my earrings and necklace. I tied my scarf in a loose knot and positioned it primly on my neck. A spritz of cologne behind each ear, a little fussing with my hair, a fresh coat of lipstick, and I was filling up my purse like I had been doing it all of my life. Tissues, lipstick, compact, key to the motel room, a few dollars in change, my Arizona driver’s license, and Victoria Ross’s bank account information.
I stood in front of the mirror and took a long look at myself. Victoria Ross was an attractive, conservatively dressed young woman, whose features matched the picture on the license which I had created with Adobe Photoshop. In fact, I had morphed a digital photo of myself with a picture of Jennifer Anniston to create the license, but the girl in the mirror now was all me. She slung her purse over her shoulder and practiced walking and moving like a girl, all the while talking to an imaginary bank officer in her newfound voice. “Hi, I’d like to open an account.” “Hi, I’d like to open an account.”
It was now or never. Without allowing myself to think about the consequences of failure, I bolted out of the motel room and started to walk towards the bus stop. My slip made me shorten my strides, and I concentrated on taking short steps and swinging my hips slightly as I tried to adapt to my new persona. Although it was close to ninety degrees, it was a dry heat, and my legs felt comfortable in my stockings as a desert breeze ruffled my dress. I reached into my purse as I waited for the bus and took out the exact change. A bus appeared, I stepped on board, and dropped the coins into the receptacle as the driver said, “Afternoon, Miss.”
I forced a smile and took a seat near the back of the bus, nervously avoiding the glances from the other passengers. I was reasonably sure that none of them had detected anything unusual in my appearance, and I picked up a discarded newspaper from the floor of the bus and pretended to read it as we headed towards downtown Phoenix.
The bank I had selected was in an upscale shopping and residential district close to the Arizona Biltmore. When the bus was a few blocks away, I pulled the cord and stepped off onto the hot sidewalk. I took my time as I got my bearings, trying to pull myself together while I walked slowly towards the bank. It was just before five o’clock when I entered the delightfully cool lobby and made my way to the elderly receptionist.
“May I help you, Miss?”
“Yes. I’d like to open an account.”
“Certainly. Please have a seat, it won’t be a moment.” I sat down in a soft leather chair, deftly tucking my dress beneath myself as I did so. I had rehearsed this in my mind a hundred times, but the strange sensations of wearing women’s clothing were totally new to me. As I crossed my legs, I noticed with a twinge of alarm that the sweet feelings of arousal in my panties were starting to return.
“Miss?” At first I didn’t realize that the receptionist was calling to me. Snap out of it! I stood up and she pointed me towards a young man seated behind a mahogany desk, with a computer monitor and a neat stack of papers in front of him. He stood when I approached, and I grasped his strong hand awkwardly as he introduced himself. “I’m Brian Robbins. I understand you’d like to open an account with us.”